January 29, 2022
Update from Superintendent Shuldiner
Dear Lansing School District Community,
I hope this newsletter finds you well. As always, it is a pleasure to be writing to you all. Today, for the first time ever, I wanted to address, in detail, the most important decision a superintendent can ever make. The most powerful action at my disposal -- wielding the awe-inspiring Mjölnir, Thor's Hammer of Education: Calling Snow Days! Haha. Of course, I am being facetious; safety, security, learning, etc., all take precedence. But let's be honest; we all care about snow days more than pretty much anything else.
I will be eating at a restaurant on a mildly chilly day, with a 1% chance of two inches of snow, and I will be inundated with people coming up to me saying: "Hi, you're the Superintendent, right? Can you please call a snow day?" I will have teachers, students, and parents emailing me or texting me. I will even have teachers from other districts contact me because they know if Lansing calls a snow day, there is a greater likelihood their district will call one. Almost all of the communications I get are fun and light-hearted and are just wishful thinking. But sometimes, I get angry or accusatory communications as well. How dare I call a snow day? Why didn't I call it sooner? How come you didn't call a snow day? Every other district in a 100-mile radius called a snow day, and you didn't. etc. etc. etc. Needless to say, I am only sharing the G-rated emails.
I have no problem with angry communications; it comes with the territory. And honestly, I would rather folks be angry with me or at least focus their anger toward me rather than on our wonderful staff. But I also understand that the process in which the district calls a snow day is shrouded in mystery. So, I would like to take this opportunity to share with you all how we do it. I appreciate that this will probably not stop the angry emails or the light-hearted gentle urging (no problem), but I do think it is important for our entire community to know how it works.
To start with, we have a team that works on this. It is not just me. Our Director of Facilities, our Chief Operating Officer, both our Deputy Superintendents and I, start texting each other from the moment the forecast starts to mention snow. We look at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website https://www.noaa.gov/ as well as the local news and Lansing State Journal. NOAA is the gold standard, but we also want to make sure we are checking regional news as well.
If it looks like it is going to be bad, we try to make a decision as soon as possible. If you remember, in December, when it was absolutely clear that there was going to be a real snowstorm, we called it at 4 pm the day before. We know that families need as much time as possible to find childcare or to adjust plans. Sadly, we can't always know that early. So, if we don't decide early, we continue to monitor the situation throughout the evening and night.
Also, it is never just one number we are looking at. Weather is a funny thing. Five inches of light snow on a sunny, non-windy, 36-degree day is a lot different than 5 inches of heavy snow on a very windy, 23-degree day, where the roads have iced over. It also matters if the snow is late during December, the shortest days of the year when arrival and dismissal are in the dark or dusk, or early March when the sun will be out, and it will be light for both the start and end of the school day. We try to take a holistic approach when making the decision but always keeping safety and security at the top of our decision-making tree. So, we watch during the night. We have our crews out early, sometimes as early as 4 am. And I, along with the COO and Director of Facilities, start to get reports of the conditions by 4:30 am or 5. If it is bad, we will know it, and then we can call the snow day early enough to make sure buses don't start picking up students and parents haven't started driving. We try our best to make a decision one way or another before 6:00 am when the buses really start to roll.
At the same time as this is going on, I am in contact with the other 11 superintendents in our ISD, as well as the ISD superintendent. As an ISD, we try hard to make unified decisions, but since our ISD is really expansive, we don't always work in unison. You can imagine the roads in Webberville and Stockbridge will be a lot different than in Lansing and Waverly. For instance, last week, on Wednesday, the texting among the superintendents started at 4:51 am. It hadn't started snowing heavily, but we had seen reports of possible snow and wind. By 5:15 am, we saw that there was a split in the ISD. And by 5:30 am, we had enough reports of road conditions that we felt we could make a decision. Some districts were leaning toward staying open, and others were closed. We, as an ISD, agreed that we would split, and that was ok. So, last week, some school districts in the more rural areas like Dansville, Leslie, Stockbridge, and Webberville closed on Wednesday, but more urban and suburban districts like Holt, Okemos, Waverly, and us (Lansing) remained open. It made sense. I could see blacktop on the roads from my office all day. But I am sure in a place like Leslie, that wasn't the case. The ISD superintendents get along well with each other, so there aren't any hard feelings if we have to make different decisions.
With all of this in mind, I also want to discuss the most important factor, and that is what happens when we call a snow day. Of course, our purpose as a school district is to educate children so that they can be wonderful members of society. But it would be folly not to recognize that our school district is much more than that. We are a place that offers food and warmth, safety, and refuge. When we decide to close schools for the day, that means more than 10,000 students and their families are impacted. It might mean that some of our children won't have breakfast and lunch. They might not have a warm room to sit in or a dry place to read. If we cancel school, it might mean that parents have to call out from work and miss a day's wages. It might mean that important meetings will be missed, or students might be left on their own without enough supervision. The school district cares deeply about its legal responsibility of "in loco parentis." So, the bar to cancel school must be high. When we close the buildings, we are not serving 20,000 meals; we are closing hundreds of bathrooms and shuttering over a million sq ft of (usually) warm, dry, safe space. If you had that resting on your shoulders, I hope you would think pretty deeply about the awesome impact calling a snow day has on our community.
The other thing to point out is that parents always have the right to keep a student home for a day or two because of safety or security. If you truly think it is too dangerous to send your child to school, please don't send them. You have that right. Nobody is going to call truancy or be upset. We just want to make sure your family is safe. If you are a parent who thinks on a day that school is open, it is too scary to drive your child to school, that is totally fine. Just call the child's school and let the secretary or principal know. This is why we usually err on the side of keeping schools open. If we close schools, parents don't have the choice to send their kids to us. But if we keep them open, families have the choice not to send them. We are always trying to serve as much of the community as we can.
I hope this makes sense. I know that snow days will always be a divisive thing, with arguments on both sides. But I hope that this communication will, at least a little, help to explain how much effort we take in our decision and how we always try to keep the safety and welfare of our families and community at the top of our minds.
I look forward to finding more ways to improve understanding and communication around snow days. If you have any ideas as to how to do this, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thank you so much for all of your incredible support of our district. Together, we will do great things for the children of Lansing.
Benjamin Shuldiner, Superintendent
Lansing School District
Meet Our Featured Student!
This week, we have the distinct honor of recognizing Rahanabe Be as our featured student. Rahanabe is a fourth-grade student at Reo Elementary School who is bilingual in Burmese and English. A proud Asian-American, Rahanabe hails from Thailand.
Her teacher is Mrs. Monica Dowell, who is new to Reo this year. According to Mrs. Dowell, Rahanabe is very good in academics and her behavior is excellent. Rahanabe is extremely family-oriented and has one sister and one brother of which she is the oldest. She loves school and wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Her passion is art which she loves because it is "so relaxing and calming!" She has numerous paintings on canvases.
Rahanabe is a team leader of the safety patrol at Reo School. She takes her responsibility as a safety very seriously supporting K-1 mouse bus (to those who are not familiar, each Dean bus has an image for easy identification) students each day. She and a partner walk two of our SE transportation students to their designated buses each afternoon just before dismissal. She is very respectful to her peers and adults and gets along well with everyone.
Rahanabe is a great person. We only wish we could have even more students like her.
Above: Rahanabe (front, middle) takes a picture with other members of Reo's safety patrol.
Staff Feature of the Week
Ms. Margret Sickles is an amazing asset to the Lansing School District. She has worked side by side with many staff who openly share their praise of her work ethic, mentoring, support and the brightness she naturally brings when she enters any room. Working in the GSRP, Ms. Sickles has proved to be a pillar in the foundation for many of Lansing's students as they begin their educational journey with us. You can often find her dancing and singing right along with the students.
Going above and beyond for our community, Ms. Sickles leads aerobic classes through Lansing Parks and Rec right here at Riddle! This has proven to be an amazing way for many of Lansing's fitness fanatics and district staff to come together in a healthy way and shake out some of the kinks from their day.
Riddle is beyond proud of Ms. Sickles and we look forward to the many years she will continue to bring us joy. She is such a rock star!
Thank you, Ms. Sickles, for all that you do for Lansing School District students and families!
Skilled Trades in Construction is a new one-year exploratory Career Technical Education (CTE) program offered by the Lansing School District that introduces students to the building trades areas of:
- Concrete Repair
- Heavy Equipment Operation
- Iron/Steel Work
- Painting & Glazing
- Plumbing & Pipefitting
- Sheet Metal Fabrication
- Siding & Roofing
Students are given the opportunity for success through various methods of instruction coupled with hands-on learning in a workshop environment. The curriculum emphasizes safety practices and the proper use of both hand and power tools. Students will receive OSHA 30 training to achieve an OSHA National Certification.
Students successfully completing the program will obtain the skills, technical knowledge, and work habits necessary for an apprenticeship after graduation or a pre-apprenticeship, internship, or work experience during their senior year.
Below: Students in the Skilled Trades in Construction Career Technical Education program recently had the opportunity to operate an excavator and rough terrain crane under the direction of the Operating Engineers Local 324 at the training facility in Howell.